Bay's big day lifts Mets' spirits

MIAMI -- The box score will show that Sunday’s 5-1 Mets victory over the Marlins goes to Chris Young, but the veteran pitcher feels differently.

“This is Jason Bay’s win,” Young said.

Bay hit a first-inning grand slam Sunday to lead the Mets. And even though the left fielder has seemingly slumped or been injured for his entire three-year Mets career, the other veterans on the team have expressed admiration for how hard he has worked to try to turn things around.

“I’m thrilled for him,” Young said. “With all the struggles he’s faced and the injuries -- serious injuries like concussions -- he continues to show up every day, he works hard, and he’s a great teammate.

“He’s handled adversity better than anyone I’ve ever been around. He’s never down, doesn’t pout. He sets a great example for the rest of the guys.”

Bay’s big hit came with two outs and the Mets leading 1-0. Bay took a ball before going to the opposite field on the next pitch and driving the ball over the 392-foot sign in right-center field.

Bay said he wasn’t sure right away that he had hit it far enough to clear the fence.

“Not in this big park,” Bay said. “I knew I had hit it into the gap, but I didn’t know if it would stay up.”

Bay, who hadn’t started a game since Aug. 25 and hadn’t had an extra-base hit since he homered on August 16, said he was “curious” how his timing would be affected by the layoff. “I just tried to be ultra-prepared,” Bay said. “I’ve spent a ton of time in the cage. You never know how your timing will be until you get in there. I didn’t think I’d hit a grand slam on my first at-bat in a week, but it was a nice reward.”

Even with his big day -- he also had a single -- Bay is still hitting only .160 this season with 7 homers and 18 RBIs.

It’s a long way from the 36 homers and 119 RBI he provided the Red Sox in 2009, the last year before he signed with the Mets and his career bottomed out.

“This guy is a professional,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of Bay. “He’s the first guy to stand up and say, ‘I’m not getting it done. I’ve got no one to blame but myself.’

“That’s who he is -- he only talks about the team. Whenever he is out there, he will give you all he has. You root for him every time he is out there, and when he has a day like today, you are really excited for him.”

Still, Bay’s numbers have regressed so badly that his slam on Sunday represented, in essence, a month’s worth of production for him. In other words, from August 3 to Sept. 1, Bay had one home run and four RBIs, which is exactly what he provided with his one big swing on Sunday.

Bay said he isn’t sure yet what -- if anything -- he will change this offseason in a hoped-for prelude to a turnaround in 2013. He turns 34 on Sept. 20. "Somewhere along the way, I lost it,” he said on Sunday.

His performance on Sunday was “gratifying”, Bay said, but he reminded everyone that he has done things like this before. After all, it’s his fifth career grand slam.

“It’s just taking that (hit) and repeating it,” Bay said.

Most of all, though, Bay said he appreciates his teammates’ support, as expressed by Young and others.

“It means everything, and I mean that as wholeheartedly as I can,” Bay said. “These are the guys you spend your whole season with. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m not trying to fake anything. It’s just obviously been a very trying time.

“I try to be the same guy every day, and I’m sure there are times when I haven’t been. But I’ve had support from every single one of these guys, no matter what happens. That means everything.”